Public art says a lot about a city. It memorializes its history, its people and its values. Tulsa sculptor Rosalind Cook is a public art maven. Her work lives in Vatican City, Russia and countless U.S. cities from coast to coast. Now it lives in Edmond, too. With the installation of Cook’s “Come Unto Me”—a 28-inch statue of Jesus with children—Karen Morton, owner of Sacred Heart Catholic Gifts, added a new jewel to Edmond’s rich collection of public art.
The statue shows Jesus embracing a baby and reaching out to a girl while a boy sits at His feet. This is a Jesus for all, children and adults alike. It’s the Jesus Karen Morton wants Christians to hold in their hearts—the Jesus that welcomes all to his flock.
Says Morton, “I like the downtown statues. I started thinking about what type of statue of Jesus, something appropriate for my store, I could put in. I ended up choosing ‘Come Unto Me’ because the image of Jesus with children appealed to me. I like the depiction of the children. It’s calming. It’s a welcoming piece. It’s a sculpture you can walk up to and become a part of.”
“The ‘Come Unto Me’ statue is special because Karen Morton, whose customers helped raise half the costs, is so enthusiastic about it,” says Edmond Mayor Dan O’Neil. “If you hear her talk about the history and the artist Rosalind Cook’s thoughts about the design and how the children on the statue surround Jesus, it becomes more than just a piece of art.”
To select the statue, Morton turned to her friend, Randel Shadid, owner of Shadid Fine Arts. “I’ve been involved with the public art program since its inception,” says Shadid, “Karen’s a friend who asked that I provide her examples of work that would be appropriate for her Sacred Heart store and location. I found “Come Unto Me” at a sculpture show in Loveland, Colorado and suggested it to Karen. She liked it and it fit the budget.”
Morton studied several candidates before settling on Cook’s statue. “I asked Randel Shadid to see if he could locate a statue for me. He brought me pictures of several,” says Morton, “My husband and I both liked this one best. We felt the detail was wonderful and the faces were very well done. It also kept with the current theme of so many of the statues downtown representing children.”
“It was my longing to create a sculpture that could give the same message of Christ’s love for us, his children, but on a scale that could be placed in homes, churches or offices,” says Cook, “In my studio I began this sculpture, ‘Come Unto Me.’ As a Christian, I believe this is the most significant invitation a life can receive. It can guide the course of one’s life and death.”
Cook’s faith figures strongly in her work. Sculpting is a second career for her, a career she began to explore after the birth of her first child. It took little time for Cook to realize that sculpting was more than an occupation—it was a calling. As her children grew, Cook grew as an artist. As her children became more self-sufficient, she spent more time with her sculpting, honing the style she employs today.
It’s hard to exaggerate Cook’s world-class credentials as an artist. Born in Lima, Peru, Cook was exposed to a wide variety of cultures and art that stays with her today. Her first bronze sculpture, cast in 1986, catapulted her into the upper echelons of the sculpture scene and she’s gone nowhere but up since then. She’s in high demand as a teacher at notable schools. While she enjoys a great deal of notoriety in the academic world, her philosophy as a sculptor is simple.
“There are many reasons for supporting public art, but for me, having unique statues around the city says our community is special. It certainly makes our downtown interesting for the visitors and for those who observe others interacting with the statues,” says O’Neil, “I really appreciate the care and attention our downtown retailers and business owners have for this program, their creativity and their financial support that makes this central, historic area of Edmond a fun place to shop and do business.”
Public art isn’t cheap, and Morton’s extremely grateful to those that helped her purchase the statue. Morton and her customers contributed half of the cost. The remainder of the cost was generously picked up by the Knights of Columbus Council 6477 from Edmond’s St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
“I can’t express enough my gratitude to everyone who supported the statue through their thoughts, prayers and financial help. We appreciate Randel Shadid for locating this beautiful statue, the Visual Arts Committee for their support and the Knights of Columbus for coming to the rescue at the end. Even though the statue originated with a request from us there are so many involved. All we can say is thank you to everyone for going on this journey with us,” says Morton